Organ Grind: A South American Food Journal, Part 11, Buenos Aires is Red Meat + Red Wine in Large Plastic Bottles
San Telmo’s Parrilla de Freddy
Buenos Aires, by most accounts, is a city. Those accounts also attach various adjectives to it such as world-class, cosmopolitan, even Argentinian. One of the many criteria that I petulantly demand a city check off its scan-tron test sheet is the presence of a set of distinct neighborhoods. A large urban area of any stature should be made up of many little cities worthy of exploration in and of themselves. Buenos Aires is a buzzing honey comb of hoods. And, like any great city, the B.A. is prodigious in its offerings. It does cemetery for rich people. It does Old World romance. It does frantic businessman. It does meat. It does Spanish spoken with a cadence best evoked by imagining Don Corleone asking, “Donde esta la biblioteca?”. Basically, everyone talks like they’re gargling volcanic Sicilian soil.
Back to the meat, and my subject. Every major city has a “bohemian” quarter. Oftentimes, the bohemian glass of a given city, filled with a decadent and dangerous amber liquid, has long been diluted by the gray water of tourism. Buenos Aires has San Telmo, and it is a beauty, although hardly immune to that particular aforementioned rot endemic to charmingly frayed neighborhoods. One of its coolest attractions is a huge indoor antiques market. Switchblades, pocket watches, records, vintage wine-openers, ceramic dildos, leather goods. Buy it there, and then get yourself to Parrilla de Freddy, a counter-and-grill joint wafting marvelous stenches of brisket, sausage and skirt steak up and down Carlos Calvo Street. It’s close enough to the antiques market that I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a secret door leading directly to the flaming maw of Freddy’s long grill, wherein pop and spit meat porcine and bovine.
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The meat at Freddy’s is cheap and offered with good crusty bread. The most traditional thing to do, and what I did, is make yourself a choripan, which is basically a little sausage sandwich dressed with red or green chimichurri. You’d be a fool to ignore the brisket, though, so on first visit brave the possibility of meat-related gastric failure and order both. They’ll poor you out large cups of cheap red wine or beer from re-purposed plastic liter soda bottles and that’s fucking it. Sit down, eat and don’t ask too many questions about the riot of yellowed newspaper clippings and jaundiced photos stapled to every available space on the worn brown walls. It’s a locals joint and the best thing a tourist can do is be respectful. Long live Freddy and his gout-ridden paradise.
Parrilla de Freddy
471 Carlos Calvo